There are two type of BIO, a source/sink BIO and a filter BIO.
As its name implies a source/sink BIO is a source and/or sink of data, examples include a socket BIO and a file BIO.
A filter BIO takes data from one BIO and passes it through to another, or the application. The data may be left unmodified (for example a message digest BIO) or translated (for example an encryption BIO). The effect of a filter BIO may change according to the I/O operation it is performing: for example an encryption BIO will encrypt data if it is being written to and decrypt data if it is being read from.
BIOs can be joined together to form a chain (a single BIO is a chain with one component). A chain normally consist of one source/sink BIO and one or more filter BIOs. Data read from or written to the first BIO then traverses the chain to the end (normally a source/sink BIO).